Networking is often what turns a small business into a thriving and prosperous business. Last night, I attended a Chamber of Commerce small business networking event, and I was reminded of how important it is to not just attend these events, but to be proactive in your networking strategy to get the most out of your time and effort. Networking success comes with planning and follow up.
What do you want to achieve with your networking efforts? For example, do you want to create partnerships with other business owners? Do you want to broaden awareness of your brand or drive traffic to your website? Do you want to increase credibility? Decide what your goals are and then you can move onto the next step which is to plan how you’re going to achieve your goals.
Once you have your goals, plan how you’re going to achieve them. This step involves two considerations:
For example, if you want to generate partnerships with other business owners you might choose to attend a local networking meeting each month. This may easily fit into your available time and schedule.
If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then you may choose to focus on social networking sites. This tactic may require a daily time commitment of an hour or more, which may or may not fit into your goals.
Regardless of the goals you have, it’s important to take great care of your new contacts. Touch base with them on a consistent basis. Provide value. Send information, notes and clippings to professional contacts. Send articles, videos and valuable email messages to social networking contacts.
The more you take care of your new contacts, the more value they’ll provide you. Your networking efforts will be worth your time and energy.
Networking has the power to multiply your efforts. For example, you might create a referral program. Each contact or customer who sends you a new customer might receive a reward. Also, the more value you provide, the more likely your new contacts will tell others about your business. Put your networking contacts to work for you.
Networking can take over your life. However, you can gain control of it by simply adding your networking time into your schedule. Plan time for it so you can stay in charge.
Also consider using technology to help you maximize your time. Email groups and autoresponders can help you send messages to new contacts. Social networking applications can also help you schedule posts in advance.
Taking charge of your networking is as simple as setting goals, creating a plan and scheduling your tactics. Use your resources to maximize your time so that networking can maximize your business!